Oregon Summer Camp for Kids Affected by AIDS

Aug 28, 2014

Kids from around the Northwest come to summer camp in the hills west of Salem this week.  But this camp is like no other in the region.

(sound of splashing in a pool)

Like most summer camps, Camp Starlight has swimming, games like Sharks and Lifeguards, archery, movie night.  But there's a difference:

"My name is Randy Bodkin and I'm the Camp Starlight director.  This is a camp for kids that are affected by HIV/AIDS.  Doesn't necessarily have to be them themselves who are affected with HIV/AIDS. It could be a direct family member,  Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, aunt."

"When we first started Camp Starlight in 1999 we had a higher percentage of HIV positive children."

Greta Swanson directs counselors in training:

"Now pregnant women have to opt out of an HIV test and so, if they know that they are positive when they are pregnant they can be on a medication to prevent the spread of HIV. Because of that, in the United States we've had a drop of children with HIV."

"My name's Alyssa, I'm sixteen and I'm from Medford, Oregon.  I'm here at camp because my sister and my mother both have HIV and camp's just a place to kind of get away from that, get to see some old friends."

'All right ladies. It's time to see some really cool birds. Like birds that we don't normally see.  Everyone have their backpack?"

Randy Bodkin: "We provide every camper with a backpack, school supplies. We try to do shoes, jackets, clothes and we allow them to take some for siblings that are home as well."

"My name is Aubrey. I'm 16 years old.  I'm from Oregon City, Oregon.  I'm here at camp because my Dad has HIV. Once I grew up and knew how to deal with the stigma of HIV and AIDS, I just grew to love everybody here, so I keep coming back."

"AIDS is still stigmatized and just the word itself because of that, with kids and teenagers, they still get made fun of.  It's brutal. You know, causing kids to drop out of school and acting out, it's just all of those things because of that stigma associated with HIV."

"My name is Bailey.  I'm 12 years old. I've been at Camp Starlight asince I was around five.  The people here make me feel more comfortable about being myself even though I have a hard time being myself even here. They still try to help me get out of my shell.  And my mother has HIV and that's why I come."

"My name is Joanne.  This is my tenth year at Camp Starlight and I am the volunteer coordinator. I come back because of the kids.  My first year I met all these amazing children thyat were affected by HIV and they just stole my heart."

Song: "We say a prayer for you in hope that it will come true. One day a cure will be found and no one, no one will suffer."